Craig Coffey’s days as county administrator are numbered. It’s not about whether he’ll leave, but whether he’ll choose to resign or be fired.
He and the County Commission are hurtling toward a Jan. 14 public confrontation. It doesn’t merely risk becoming a spectacle: it already is. The sheriff and the clerk of court are either no longer on speaking terms with Coffey or barely are. The county’s public-sector unions are calling for his head. Palm Coast’s mayor is re-injecting in the wrangle her decade-long animus toward him. One commissioner moved to fire him, another is ready to join him, and the remaining three are babbling on somewhere between ambivalent and clueless. No administrator can credibly keep working in those conditions.
The process has been painful. It doesn’t need to be cruel. For the sake of everyone involved, the county’s reputation included, Coffey and the commission would be better off avoiding a public flogging on Jan. 14. Coffey should be allowed to resign with a measure of dignity–and severance. You don’t employ someone 12 years only to boot him out unceremoniously, or use his past year’s errors to condemn all 12. That’s not to diminish his recent errors, with the Sheriff’s Operations Center, Bing’s Landing and Sally Sherman taking gold, silver and bronze in this year’s scandal Olympics.
But Coffey is not a criminal. He’s not a crook. He’s not been immoral. His work ethic has not been in question, nor his commitment to his job. He’s an administrator who ran out his credit some time back, his 24/7 management of the two hurricane crises boosting that credit. He got too comfortable doing what county and city executives inevitably end up doing when they stay past their expiry date: they run a fiefdom rather than a government administration, blurring professional lines in the name of greasy friendships or misplaced loyalty. As with Jim Landon in Palm Coast, Coffey’s elected commission turned over twice during his tenure, accruing more power to Coffey every time and giving him the advantage of shaping commissioners to his uses rather than the other way around.
It’s been easy. He had weak commissioners like Nate McLaughlin and Greg Al-Haig Hansen (Look at me, I’m in charge!), who are more interested in playing commissioner than being one. He had distracted commissioners like Dave Sullivan and Charlie Ericksen (Sullivan by his now late wife, Ericksen by his health). The combination gave Coffey a free hand to run his fiefdom to his deals’ content. So let’s not diminish the responsibility of commissioners enabling this mess. This is at least as much their doing as his: they could have channeled his zealous instincts to better ends. They chose to indulge them instead, no questions asked.
In a sense, Coffey the supreme deal-maker is now paying the price of that deal with his commissioners. In the end they’re going to save their skin and get rid of him. Sullivan talked of convincing Coffey to resign, but Coffey would have no reason to, knowing he’s getting the boot, with a severance to lose if he quit voluntarily.
Ease the way. Offer the severance, and let him resign. It wouldn’t be a golden parachute on the Jim Landon scale, nor should Coffey’s exit be unfairly tainted by Landon’s: Coffey’s severance is capped at six months’ pay and his benefits package wasn’t like Landon’s Ali Baba cave. Nor is Coffey jerking the commission around as Landon did for a year. The commission could symbolically save face and offer Coffey five months (though that would be unnecessarily puerile), he could avoid the sourness of a firing and take the deal, and everyone can move on. If commissioners are worried about the cost of severance, they can use savings from Sally Sherman’s double-dipping and overpriced salary to pay for it, since Sherman should not be allowed to outlast Coffey’s tenure.
None of this solves the county’s bounty of problems. But it swiftly and decently clears the way for the commission to find someone who can, preferably from outside the fiefdom.
If the commission is nervous about a replacement, they have options. There’s been increasing chatter about Kevin Guthrie, the former head of Flagler’s emergency management division, and Jarrod Shupe, the current head of Flagler’s and the sheriff’s IT operations. Both are angling for the job. Coffey’s micromanagement drove Guthrie out in early 2016, about the time when Shupe was learning the ropes in his job. Both are sharp, ambitious, respected and fluent enough in Flaglerspeak to ensure continuity with critical issues–the operations center, emergency communications, dunes repairs–without too much allegiance to Coffey’s Ancien Régime.
The risk for either is to become entangled in the commission’s indecisiveness: this commission is constantly playing catch-up, if even that. It continues to be outflanked by reality. Here’s its chance to get serious, and to do it honorably and prudently.
Pierre Tristam is FlaglerLive’s editor. Reach him by email here or follow him @PierreTristam. A version of this piece aired on WNZF.
Fire him with nothing
How do we know Coffey hasn’t been doing this same crooked dealings for the past 12 years. It’s been highlighted the past 1-2 years . The county finally pulled their heads out of the sand a may have grown some guts to get rid of him. He should be fired and NO severance package. He should pay back the money he’s screwed us out of. THIS GUY IS POISON and should be treated that way.
Tired of Political BS says
Absolutely no severance! I’m so tired of administrators doing a bad job and walking out with a bonus, all at taxpayers’ expense! That is absolutely ludicrous. NO MORE GOLDEN PARACHUTES! Don’t worry about him, I’m sure he is making a bid for employment in another county. City to city, county to county…so many administrators doing damage and moving on. Good day!
One thing people never get, be careful what you wish for,. Whomever replaces Coffey could be worst.
Jan J Reeger says
This was a great article and I agree totally. Let him resign with severance. I had very good dealings with Craig during his tenure. To unpopular responses, I supported his decision on the Sheriff’s office. I am sure he felt he did all he could to mitigate any issues there but it just didn’t work. We don’t have crystal balls. I think your analysis of the historical happenings is on target. I wish Craig the best for his future. I wish the Commissioners good luck with choosing the next player.
John DeWitt says
Craig is only guilty of taking the lead and making decisions that previous elected Commissioners were unable or unwilling to make. Now he has to take the heat for their indecisive and and cowardly actions. Can anyone show me a tasking he did not accomplish? This article is spot on. Love him or hate him, Craig gets things done but sometimes blurs the lines of propriety. A good Commission would have kept his rougher edges in check. I wish him the best wherever he lands next. And yes, he should be allowed to resign with full severance. He can’t survive the situation as it is now but this man is fully capable and knows how to get things done.
Michael Cocchiola says
I agree…Coffee’s got to go, but with dignity. Overall, he has worked very hard and with some (big!) exceptions, served well. The Commission is in a tight place. If they try to ease him out with an exit package they’ll get blowback. If they pull go full Trump on him they’ll leave a bitter taste in a lot of mouths, particularly within the county’s professional staff. Going to be interesting.
If the BOCC does not fire the administrator then I fear there will be way more problems down the road. We do not know if he has done any criminal wrong or not and shouldn’t assume either way. Letting him resign would make it easier on everyone, but have we considered how the public feels about this? Why is it so hard to pull the trigger anyway? Are commissioners afraid or hiding something themselves???
Of the two candidates mentioned at the end of the article, Kevin Guthrie is the clear choice. Everyone in the county knows his work ethic and after he left he has been very successful in other work ventures. If Coffey pushed him out, it must mean there is something very wrong here. We need to bring good leaders back and if they know how the mess was created in the first place, maybe they are our best hope to clean it up. Kevin would be a fantastic interim or permanent county manager! God knows he did a great job while he was here and was probably hindered by Coffey or seen as a threat.
Don’t trust anyone who is currently on the inside! We don’t know who has aided and abetted the administrator besides his deputy. We all know Hansen will hide behind his desk, but the other commissioners need to act! These are not just our tax dollars at risk, but are futures! End the madness!
Resign and half the severance pay sounds good!
Ahem, if I was the owner of a business, and Coffey was the manager, I would not be accepting ANY resignation NOR offering any severance. I would simply fire him and tell him take the train. If he is fired he then has to explain that to future employers, not unlike ANYONE that performs their job in that manner would have to do. Why should he go on to do the same thing somewhere else, that he has done in Flagler County. Fire him and let him collect Unemployment.
With Coffey, I blame the county commissioners that have been present while Coffey has been and still is the Counties Administrator. These representatives of the people failed to do their job and manage Coffey, instead they let Coffey do their jobs and make the tough decisions these elected officials were scared to make. Coffey went to far at times and nobody stopped him. Shame on the County Commissioners, maybe a few of them should be fired as well.
Fire him,look at what he did hiring his assistant back at a rediculas salery
Why should he get serverance pay?
Sea Ray closed no help from him to try to keep it open,no serverance pay
An Insidee says
Pierre, great article and view point.
This County has a lot to be proud of, and Craig has been an important piece of that. If he is going to be fired, let him leave with dignity and with a fair severance package.
However, we do need to be careful who comes in next. Mr. Shupe is a very good technical person and his IT folks are very dedicated and have many projects to be proud of. However, he is a nightmare to work for and with (just ask a few of his staff and in-county colleagues) with questionable ethics. There are many rumous about him reading emails of county employees and other agencies that he provides IT services to. These things really need to be looked into. I am not sure if that is criminal, bit definitely unethical!
Rick G says
Having worked for and observed county governments the past 45 years I can say that County Managers or Administrators rarely last beyond 8 or 9 years. I think that Coffey has reached his useful end. But the end should not be as harsh as his recent critics would like. Pierre, your proposal sounds like a winner for all.
Concerned Citizen says
There is no one to blame but Coffey himself.
He is the County Administrator and has had way to much power. He should be terminated WITHOUT severance. From hi shady shenannigans to criminal acts there is more than enough just cause.
As the County Administrator he is held to higher standards. He violated the publics trust on way to many occasions. He only got away with it because he has the BOCC cowed.
In the public sector if you or I had the performance track and discussions Coffey had with BOCC we would have already been fired. WITHOUT Severance or benifits.
His Severance went to Sherman, when he rehired her! That was ridiculous and should be a crime to the people of PC!
Yes maybe Pierre’s advise is common sense for a smooth transition, BUT PLEASE DO NOT HIRE ANY COUNTY INSIDER TO REPLACE HIM. We do not want another good old boy’s administrator with all these local big bananas ties…we want a county manager that besides working under the guidance of the FCBOCC also hears the residents concerns. I have spent hours thru the years going to this never ending commission meetings begging in my 3 minutes since the nineties 1) against (with the prior manager) giving our 33 acres of ocean front designated by ITT in the original DRI as public parks to Ginn’s Nicklaus golf course for 200 acres in the bun docks and a $20,000 check for the 16th street public access (sadly we lost our Palm Coast public ocean front park forever), 2) against letting go our unincorporated ITT Palm Coast utility mid nineties to Florida-Allette water for about 9 to12 millions when we had the first right of refusal as grandfathering users since the 70’s, so Palm Coasters had to buy it back 5 years later for 89 millions or so, 3) against building the Tajmahal complex, 4) against the purchase of the no longer working Plantation Bay overpriced utility from ICI developer Housseini other than holding his feet to the fire and force him to repair it, 4) against the Ginn hangar construction loan that we are still paying for, 5) against the giveaway out to Cakes Across (our pockets) America, 6) against the contaminated hospital overpriced building purchase and the millions wasted to renovation, 7) against the costly rehiring of Sally Sherman and 8) last against the Capt’s Bbq in Bings Landing to no avail in the first meeting.. The absence of residents opposing those pork barrels and anti community projects was very well taken advantage by FCBOCC and their administrator back then. Thank God no with Bings Landing as I guess our community is awakening lately. Has not only been the administrator’s faults but also of the one’s we elected to represent us telling us lies while running for office and stabbing us in the back after seated on behalf of the pressures applied on them by special interest. I hope our current FCBOCC will change its course now under the guidance of Chair Mr. O’Brien and will hear the county resident taxpayers. If so thank you in advance.
A lot of people forget who Coffey reports to, he reports to and is hired /appointed by the County Commissioners.
The County Administrator’s roles and responsibilities are specified in Florida Statute, §125.70-125.74.
You can’t have your cake and eat it too. If he is fired he is entitled to full severance. He will get it. Pay the money and move on.
“Sally Sherman taking gold, silver and bronze in this year’s scandal Olympics”. LMAO!!
Gotta Say Something says
I am having a hard time wrapping my head around Jarrod thinking he is remotely qualified for this position. Anyone who has ever had a conversation with him knows his only concern is for himself. He’s an IT person, not a leader! How many raises has he gotten himself since he started with the county? While it is time for change that will hopefully change the culture within the organization, Jarrod would not help, only worsen it. Looking forward to seeing Sally finally stop taking from the taxpayers as well. She likes to toot her own horn too, speaks of her SKILL set but never defines what that is….
I actually agree with Pierre! Inwould also add that Government Administrators should be limited to 5-6 years
john dolan esq. says
The County had no trouble laying off many people in 2008 with no dignity or severance. Why should Coffee be treated special?
According to PC Observer this week, Coffey neglected to inform the Commission before the latest lease signing that there would be financial consequences, big $ consequences, to the County if Captains lost money in the transfer of the business to the new building. I do not absolve the Commissioners from their due diligence— but this is a big booboo by Coffey and the Attorney that can have dire results for the pocketbook of the citizens. I could go back and bring other examples but for this latest fiasco I would say why pay him severance— that is, unless we have another bad contract with him too and we must.
And that does not even address the issue of profit making from sensitive lands purchased for the enjoyment of our people. I am not responsible for Captain’s profit or loss if the building needs repairs. I’d like to pay my own bills, right? And enjoy Princess Place as intended.
Bait/snack shop within the character of the Preserve — nice. A larger “restaurant” with paved parking lot, blocking view perhaps with liquor license, losing trees, digging up in an archeological site, WHY? Sewer hookup? And all for $1000 month? Try to rent an apartment for that much, never mind waterfront.
What are the goals of this Commission? To serve the Community or help a private business make a profit? What happened to public servants?
Jane Gentile-Youd says
I am sure he has more than enough stashed away for his ‘deals’ with the $2.5 million over payment for the Plantation Bay utility using our money without our necessary approval ( we never voted to purchase which we should have as a Special Taxing District)…. The contaminated hospital deal… the motorola deal ( no open bids)…The prefab fire station?
If I had a real voice I would say ” Coffey walk away – no questions asked and not a dime from us- just walk away and take your Coffey mate with you”…
Coffey should be fired … no severance … we have to clean up the messes at great cost to taxpayers that he created ex. Hospital . Fines for tearing down hospital without permits?Bings landing ?? What is county exposure there ? You can say things about this man call him what you want . I feel he is an operator and cunning manipulator . replace him before our county has any additional fiascos , also take Hansen in check he is is a puppet with a motive deceitful…
Thank you for your service to our community. You have done a lot for our community. Unfortunately you are being single out for incidents that could have been done differently. But the blame should be directed at the county commissioners. Have a Merry Christmas.
Wow didn’t you publish publish an article last April about Coffey’s positive review? Terminating without cause you pay the severance. This is all a bunch of local political BS.
Caps bait and BBQ are in violation of lease .. I reported this at cc meet they have a bait truck at bings parked, selling bait (not owned by captains )also the lease specifies as a condition , the time of operation in month of Nov mandates they open for business at 6.30 am daily .if either of these requirements are violated it voids their lease.i called the bait store in early Nov and I was told they open for buusiness at 10.00am… Who monitors These rentals ??? Oh yes. Coffey does a great job .. like hell he does . Man is deceitful to th county residents who pay taxes and his salary.. remove him and Hadeed their in the same club. Look at Hadeeds history . Clean out that group negligent corruption ..
100% correct Maffamike. Well written.
Once again Pierre proves his mettle as an editorial writer. Huzzah for a free press!
Also, Coffey has outlived his usefulness here. I agree. Cut him loose with a moderate severance.
If it werent for the snaky way that he rehired sherman I would agree with Pierre, however ,he screwed us big time with that ,so ,I think he should be fired ,no severance.
Time to get rid of the whole County Admin department. They cost the taxpayers way to much money. Turn the space over to Sheriff Stall for himself and his department. Seems Coffey dealings are not done properly. No severance pay as he probably has enough from deals made.
Steve Ward says
Dont worry about his severance fix the ROADS
Just the facts says
I have to disagree with Pierre on this one. The Plantation Bay utility deal, the sick hospital deal, the Sally Sherman deal and now the Bing’s debacle. He needs to be fired without severance.
In our homes taxes we pay almost double to the county of what we pay the 800 lbs gorilla that is the City of Palm Coast (in my house tax bill I pay the county $1,220 and the city only $659). County gives us the most 20 to 25% of our services as the big chunk is provided by the city. I always said we are overpaying this county and maybe… for the same reason is that Jacksonville (Get rid of all the existing, overlapping governments across the county) took over by annexation the whole Duval County and Miami annexed Dade County. Maybe it should be given a thought too here..?
While I certainly do not agree that the entire county should be annexed by any city, much less Palm Coast which is soooooo poorly governed itself. . . I do believe that Flagler County has way too many bureaucrats that “DO NOTHING” but collect a pay check! We should be asking ourselves why we need the BOCC at all, since they have given all the power to the County Manager’s office. Certainly we could pare down the number of county commissioners, in addition to finding a “new” county manager.
We certainly should not be handing out contracts with “golden parachutes”! Our contract negotiators must do a much better job in the future.
Double taxed says
Sherry-golden parachutists need to be better taken care of now!!! Before hundreds of thousands of tax dollars are just given away to someone who was already paid to do a job.
Since Palm Coast is part of the county, the city needs to abolish their useless council and key the county govern. Those of us in the city are being double taxed and because the county right now only governs about 15-20% of the county they should get to work and cut the fat—the fat Craig Coffey created!
A severance package is normally offered to those who are know of trade secrets or are a threat to open a similar business using their contacts and knowledge from their former jobs—severance packages are not ethical in government jobs and should never be offered or paid. It is evident that the contracts of Coffey and Hadeed were crafted by the two and because of such, they have given themselves golden parachutes without reason. Giving either of these two clowns a golden parachute at the tax payers expense would be a bonus and should be illegal. Besides, since the law was changed in 2011 their contracts have been amended and therefore the current law in place at the time of the amendments should have been put in the amended contracts that would reduce the amount of any severance package they get, if they were to get one at all. Coffey was paid to do the job he did, even though he has been the mastermind in putting us tax payers millions of dollars in debt and risked our health and well being by denying a sick building, if he were to be paid a severance package it would be a bonus–there is NO justification for a severance package, and the contracts should have been amended to current laws reducing such allowances, but they were not. Hopefully the commissioners will have some ethics about them when discussing the firing of Coffey and will have done their homework and do the right thing for us the tax payers, the ones they are all accountable to! Coffey has embarrassed the BOCC beyond belief, hopefully that will cease and the BOCC will step up and do their jobs—Coffey is an emplooyee of theirs, and they are accountable!!! Lets hold them to it—the ballot box does wonders and we hold the key to control it. Thank God Nate McLaughlin, Revels, Hanns, and Meeker are OUT!! Let’s be smart and NEVER elect any of those individuals back in office….they have spent us broke!
Fire him with nothing.